VIENNA (Mar. 14)
Col. Muammar Qaddafi of Libya ended a four-day official visit to Austria yesterday which was widely criticized by the opposition parties, the local news media, the Jewish community and by Israel which regards the Libyan leader as its most implacable Arab foe.
Before leaving Vienna, Qaddafi held a press conference from which he tried but failed to exclude Jewish journalists. He bitterly attacked the United States and President Reagan personally. While he was in Austria, the U.S. announced an embargo on oil imports from Libya and gas and technology exports to that country.
According to Chancellor Bruno Kreisky who was Qaddafi’s host, the Libyan leader had a long-standing invitation to visit Austria. Other sources indicated that he had in effect invited himself and Austria, heavily dependent on Libya for crude oil and searching for markets for its manufactured products, could not turn him down.
Qaddafi’s visit focused on economic matters. But the Libyan strongman, increasingly isolated from the West and from the Arab world — Saudi Arabia has called for his expulsion from the Arab League and from the Organization of African Unity — hopes to establish better ties with Western Europe through the influence of Kreisky.
The Austrian Chancellor has in the past, introduced to European statesmen such persons, as Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat, gaining for them a degree of respectability.
ARMS SALES DISCUSSED
Kreisky said that Austria is an uncommitted nation only in the military sense and considers itself port of the Western democratic world. As a neutral country, he said, Austria should have contact with the Third World countries, such as Libya. There were reports that members of Qaddafi’s entourage had negotiated with Austrian businessmen about arms sales to Libya. Kreisky said he had not arranged those talks and would give no details.
Before Qaddafi left, the Jewish Community Board, which represents Austrian Jews, criticized the government for inviting him. Its statement noted that Austrian Jews have close relations with Israel and that Qaddafi is opposed to any solution to the Middle East conflict which would allow Israel to exist.
The leaders of two opposition parties — Alois Mock, head of the conservative Volkspartie, and Norbert Steger, chairman of the right-liberal Freiheitliche Partie — held separate press conferences Friday blasting Kreisky’s regime for inviting Qaddafi. Mock said the visit would harm Austrian neutrality. Steger charged that the Socialist government was blind in one eye. He said Kreisky characterized dictatorships on the left as good and on the right as bad.